One Year Since the Jasic Incident. Arrests and Detention System with Chinese Characteristics
In July 2018, the labour action at Jasic Technology Co., Ltd in Shenzhen was succeeded by a series of crackdowns towards the strike workers and their fellow supporters as well as other labour rights activists in the second half of 2018. One year since the incident, this article will provide a review as well as a discussion on how the Chinese government use criminal law measures to treat the arrested activists.
In May 2018, the Jasic workers sought help from the Pingshan District Federation of Trade Unions regarding the poor treatment by the company. They were recommended to organize a trade union and to carry out the work of organization under the guidance of the street trade unions. However, on July 12, 2018, Jasic’s management, along with the trade union staff, Huang Jianxun, vice chairman of the Pingshan District Federation of Trade Unions, met with the worker leader Mi Jiuping, referring to behavior of workers forming trade unions as illegal. On July 20, seven workers, including Mi Jiuping and Liu Penghua who were involved in the formation of trade unions were fired by Jasic. They were also violently treated by the security guards and police officers arranged by Jasic. They were finally arrested by the police and released on the next day Afterwards, the construction workers and other supporters repeatedly protested for return to work. On July 27, the workers continued to protest for going back to work but were arrested by the police on the grounds of alleged crimes of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” In the evening, the supportive workers and their families were also taken away. This attracted wide public attention and a large number of left-wing students went to support. On August 10, the staff of the Workers’ Center, who were informed of the situation and expressed support in the scene of the protest, were also arrested by the police. On August 24, there was a crackdown on the residence of the support group consisting of students and different people was broken into by the police. That ended the labour movement of Jasic.
However, after the clearance on August 24, 2018, left-wing students and members of the Marx Institute continued to be suppressed, and many university students and graduates who participated in solidarity or mobilization continued to be harassed and arrested by the government. By January 2019, Yang Zhengjun, the editor of an online media “New Generation” about Hunan's workers with pneumoconiosis, and five labour activists active in Shenzhen, including Zhang Zhiru, Jian Hui and Wu Guijun, were arrested respectively. The arrest list was extended to labour activists not directly related to the Jasic incident. As of July 27, 2019, the Chinese government has arrested hundreds of students, social workers, and labour activists who supported the protest against Jasic. Among them, the "New Generation" editors Zhi Zhili, Fu Changguo, "Red Reference"’s Editor Shang Yi, and one of the members of the solidarity group Gu Jiayue, and He Pengchao, the founder of the social work group, were detained by the relevant authorities in the form of “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL). The situation needs attention.
According to the Chinese criminal law, the police generally has a period of 37 days between arresting the suspects and submitting them to the procuratorate for filing the persecutio. If the procuratorate thinks that the incident requires the police to conduct more evidence search, the case can be returned to the police for investigations up to two times. Each time lasts for one month. In other words, in the evidence search stage alone, detainees may face more than three months of detention.
However, according to Article 73 of the Criminal Procedure Law: "For a crime suspected to endanger State security, crime involving terrorist activities and a crime involving significant amount of bribes, residential surveillance at the domicile of the criminal suspect or defendant may impede the investigation, it may (...) be enforced at a designated place of residence” The person detained under the "Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location” is required to be held by the public security officer for up to six months. The outside world generally thinks that the measures are similar to house arrest, but in fact, during the period of RSDL, lawyers and family members are usually unable to contact the detainees, and even their location is unknown. The detainee has disappeared. In addition, due to the inability of lawyers, family members, etc. to contact the arrested person, in many related cases, the person in custody stated that during the period, the detainees were tortured by the police. Furthermore, according to the law, the police have to inform the families of the parties within 24 hours after the implementation of the RSDL but in fact there are many cases in which the family members find the arrested person missing only when they visit the detention centre. It was only after extensive inquiry that they learned that the arrested person had been arranged to a "designated residence to be monitored." Since the arrangement does not need to go through the court, the implementation of the supervision is entirely by the procuratorate. In recent years, the Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location has become a frequent means for police to detain dissidents and activists. Once the police exhausted 37 days of criminal detention, the case could again be sent back, with the approval of the procuratorate for investigation. In addition, with the 6 months of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location, the arrested person may face up to 9 months of detention before the formal hearing.
While China emphasized "Sunshine Laws" in recent years, China's criminal law provides the greatest convenience for the police and Guoan to torture the arrested person. Even under the "sunshine", the first nine months of imprisonment sever the detainees’ contact with the outside world, it is a shameful arrangement considering the harmful mental burden and torture of the arrested activist. The activists only attempted to safeguard the basic rights that the people should have in accordance with the law, but they have been subjected to the most ruthless treatment. The Chinese government must abolish the practice of "Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location", stop the torture and respect the rights of arrested persons to meet with family members and lawyers.